Independent Movie: Greetings from Tim Buckley

The first of two films about the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, this one examines the relationship (or rather lack thereof) he had with his also late father and 1960s singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who his son never really knew. It does so through a rather potent prism of a 1991 tribute concert to the elder Buckley that was Jeff’s public musical debut. It’s not without its flaws yet still a notable movie, especially for any music fans who know the work of either or both Buckleys. Being a bit of recent history transformed into film, I found its dilemma as a viewer epitomized by my own unique connection of knowing two of the characters portrayed in it: guitarist Gary Lucas, who was a player at the concert and a mentor of the younger Buckley, and the concert promotor Hal Wilner. Actor Frank Wills feels eerily close to Lucas (who was involved in the film and also appears as himself in performance sequences); Norbert Leo Butz seems nothing like the Wilner I know. It’s hard to tell if lead actor Penn Badgley is like Jeff but his performance is impressive; the same can be said of Ben Rosenfield as Tim Buckley in slices from his life interwoven into the double-bind of his son facing the prospect of performing his father’s music. The film deserves kudos for staging its final concert scene as an actual live performance (unlike so many others) that is one of the movie’s merits, and it does make a very solid case for the musical significance of both father and son. It represents the spirit of indie filmmaking as an example of a perhaps imperfect but also worthy endeavor.

TV Movie: Behind the Candelabra

This HBO film about the relationship between Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson is well worth one’s time just for its two powerful and somewhat courageous lead performances: Michael Douglas as the high-camp purveyor of lowbrow yet dazzling piano music who died from the effects of AIDS, and Matt Damon as the younger man who was his boyfriend as well as aide de camp for many years. At its core it’s a story of love found and lost with all the complications and conflicts that implies. But it’s also about celebrity, the entertainment business, wealth, gayness and bisexuality and how the ways in which people grow up affect their quests for love and belonging in adulthood. It also reaffirms how quality cable TV is producing star-driven movies that are as worthy and maybe even more daring than the theatrical film business, and quite the fascinating and engaging tale.

Documentary Film: Ed Hardy: Tattoo the World

I have no tattoos and doubt I ever will, and feel the prevalent youth culture trend of body art has resulted in much ugly ink everywhere I turn. Then there are the exceptions I see on people that are stunning works of genuine art. And as one of the best practitioners of tattooing alive today, Hardy offers a compelling case for the form’s artistic merit, and his life story all but doubles for a history of the rise of tattoos as an integral element of contemporary culture.

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2013



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